I think I shall begin telling you about my new project by updating you on the last one. A week ago I had a super constructive tutorial in which I showed the screen prints I’d mentioned in a previous blog post. (here) The main topic of conversation in the tutorial was the print below.
My tutor noted that, as she makes artworks with patchwork and embroidery herself, that craft is often seen as unthreatening and homely. For her, because of the way I’d taken the ball of yarn and transformed it into a flat print, quite stark and abstract in comparison to the real thing, it had lost the stigma of being an unthreatening, crafty little ball of yarn. This print is 30cm in diameter, far larger than any regular ball of yarn, and she felt that it could almost defy scale. Perhaps it looks like a concrete boulder from a shipyard or if it were even bigger, it might look like a ball of rope.
This shift from ‘lovely, homely ball of silk yarn’ to ‘shipyard construction’ is exactly what I was aiming to achieve. To take something from craft that fascinates me and to strip it down and recontextualise it as an art object so it can be taken seriously as art. She thought that it was an enigmatic form, one that would challenge an audience between an art way of thinking and a craft way of thinking.
So now I want to do the same kind of ‘shift’ but with patchwork patterns instead of a ball of yarn.
These are all patterns from the free 101 Patchwork Patterns website. I looked through all 101 to select the ones I thought would work best with my idea, and then I drew them out onto graph paper to see how they look when they’re repeated. You’ll see if you visit the website that usually the patterns are shown as an individual block, and I found that when you see them actually repeated they can look quite different.
TIP: If you are looking to choose a patchwork pattern yourself, maybe try sketching it out (you don’t have to be neat!) and see if it forms different shapes when it repeats. It might help you decide.
I also think that the simpler the block looks, the more effective the pattern may be.
Having seen these patterns drawn out, I find them rather graphical. Like something you might find in graphic design or contemporary fabric printing. They look crisp, minimal, and not necessarily like they’re straight out of a patchwork book from 1931. Initially, I wanted to make these patterns as screen prints like the yarn print, but on paper. Hopefully this would exaggerate the graphic-ness about them.
But, due to my timetable, I can’t work in the screen print lab until next week so instead of sitting idle I decided to try said patterns on a loom.
Firstly, I tried copying the Wind Blown Square pattern on a loom that was already set up (see image above). It was just a test piece, so I experimented with varying thicknesses of thread and colours. All in all, it totally didn’t convey what I wanted it to, it still looked very much like a patchwork pattern to me, and like a delicate and sweet little pattern to everyone else. I needed something bulkier, something more masculine, and I had to find out whether femininity and masculinity are conveyed through colour, pattern, texture or material choice.
I toyed with the idea of using a fluorescent orange weft (the horizontal threads), because that colour makes me think of workmen and builders, but someone pointed out to me that combining bright orange with another colour on the warp (vertical threads) may well dull it down.
I decided the main problem was with the pattern because it was just so dainty and delicate. Also, the pattern is where my main interest lies in this project, so eventhough originally I had the idea to take an existing pattern and use that, I had to put my own spin on the traditional patterns to beef them up a bit. These are the patterns below. (I made them on the weaver software so I couldn’t save them as images on their own but here are the screen grabs).
I’m not fully decided as to which pattern I’m going to use, but I’m leaning towards Arrows. I think it has the most going on without meandering into the realm of ‘intricate’. It looks blocky and geometric, and my eye jumps from shape to shape.
Due to the fact that the patterns I created are for a different loom set up to the one I experimented on, I have to set up my own loom. The new set up will give me a pattern four times larger than my first test. One tile of the pattern will be about 2.5cm square whereas at first the block was like, 0.8mm.
Behold the loom. This is it waiting to be set up, it has no threads attached to it yet. It is semi-computer operated, the pattern I’m using is so complex I had to design it on the computer software and input it into the loom machine. Now, when I start weaving, all I have to do is press one of the floor pedals and the loom automatically lifts which shafts are needed to create the pattern. If I had to remember which shafts to do by hand and pull all the leavers myself, it would just take too long to do, let alone the fact that I would seriously screw it up. But it’s not like the computer is doing everything for me, tension is the key to weaving, and that’s all down to me.
I went for a worsted wool warp, not only because it makes for excellent alliteration, but because it feels tougher and rougher than cotton or synthetic. It’s also undyed so it has the natural off-white colour instead of stark white.
And this is where I’m up to at the moment. My warp is 6 metres long, so I should manage to get a couple of small tests and two or three fair sized finished pieces out of it. It is 480 threads wide, and it’s these threads that I had to seperate and secure to the back of the loom ready to be threaded into the loom shafts come Monday. It’s not an easy task taking one big mass of wool and turning it into lovely neat, seperated strands, it took a full day just to do this.
Thank you very much for reading, I know it was rather a long post but I wanted to get across my ideas as much as the process of setting up the loom. I would absolutely love it if I could get some feedback on the patterns I made to help me decide which one to use. Tell me if you think they’ll look ‘manly’ enough. Should I just use a black wool weft on the natural undyed wool warp or…? (It could be any colour or any thread).
Threading up the loom should take 2-3 days so I’ll update you on my progress in the mid week.